Can Muslims be Vegetarians?

When I first told my husband that I had decided to become a vegetarian, his reaction was a strong one. “No!” he said. “Allah gave us animals to eat, so we must eat them.” When I discussed it with other Muslims, I heard similar answers:


“We cannot make haram (forbidden) what Allah has made halal (lawful).”

“We cannot imitate non-Muslims.”

Being a stubborn sort, I researched the issue myself. I find many surahs and hadiths related to food. All of the rulings were focused on what we cannot eat: food that was not slaughtered in a halal way, alcohol, pork, and lard. Many mentioned foods that are good for us. Honey, for example, is cited to have medicinal qualities. Not a single food, though, was listed as being mandatory for Muslims. Contrary to popular belief, you can be Muslim and never eat a single bite of lamb!

What I found is that it all comes down to your intentions. Like so many other things in life, Allah looks at the why of your vegetarianism. If you are refraining from meat in an effort to be more religious, thinking this will gain favor from Allah– don’t. Allah did give us certain animals to eat and enjoy and seek nourishment. Eating them is not a sin. Likewise, avoiding them will garner no reward.

If we are avoiding meat products in an effort to be healthier, that is fine. Many people with heart conditions or high blood pressure do need to limit or restrict high-fat red meat. There is no sin in that.

Others simply do not like the taste of meat. Again, that is a personal choice. Still others have witnessed a particularly cruel slaughtering and were turned off by the idea of eating meat.

For me, I started off doing the Rice Diet, a diet in which you eat many fruits, vegetables, and whole grain. After several days, I began to feel energetic and clear-headed. My skin improved. My moods leveled out. After researching, I came to believe that I am sensitive to the hormones in meat. I cannot afford organic, so veggies it is!

I do not believe I will be rewarded for my all-vegetable diet, but I don’t think I’ll be punished either. When it comes to an Islamic diet, as long as you are abstaining from pork and alcohol, and buying halal when possible, you are probably well within your legal limits.

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